Abstract: The understanding of free speech was, from fifth century Athens onwards, rhetorically coloured, and Greek uses of parrhesia and the definitions of licentia later set out in Roman handbooks are highly influential to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English works on rhetoric and political advice. Consequently, discussions of liberty of speech in Elizabethan and Jacobean England can often be understood best if read with an eye to the conditions of deliberative rhetoric. Authors of rhetorical works in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were engaged in a complicated relationship of negotiation with sometimes apparentiy contradictory traditions when they defined parrhesia. Both traditions were used by speakers and writers concerned find ways of offering frank counsel to their superiors in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
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